KABUL: The Taliban in a decree banned forced marriages of girls in Afghanistan, saying women should neither be married off without consent nor be considered a property.
This is as international community is pressuring Taliban government to extend women’s rights around work and education.
The decree was announced on Friday by the reclusive Taliban chief, Hibatullah Akhunzada – who is believed to be in the southern city of Kandahar. “Both women and men should be equal,” said the decree, adding that “no one can force women to marry by coercion or pressure”.
The decree did not mention a minimum age for marriage, which previously was set at 16 years old.
The decree also said a widow will now be allowed to re-marry 17 weeks after her husband’s death, choosing her new husband freely.
Longstanding tribal traditions have held it customary for a widow to marry one of her husband’s brothers or relatives in the event of his death.
The Taliban leadership says it has ordered Afghan courts to treat women fairly, especially widows seeking inheritance as next of kin. The group, which came to power in August, also said it had asked government ministers to spread awareness about women’s rights across the population.
The development was hailed as a significant step forward by two leading Afghan women, but questions remained about whether the group would extend women’s rights around work and education.
“This is big, this is huge … if it is done as it is supposed to be, this is the first time they have come up with a decree like this,” said Mahbouba Seraj, executive director of the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Center speaking from Kabul on a Reuters Next conference panel on Friday.